Prevent conversations sucking up time and productivity

By Ryan Falkenberg, 25 August 2023 – Originally published by IT Online.

“Hey Steve, it’s Thandi from Sales again. I wanted to follow up on that order I sent through last week. How close are we to fulfilling it? The client’s starting to ask questions again.”

If you’ve worked in an office job for long enough, chances are you’re familiar with this conversation (or some variation of it). You’ve heard it many times and your organisation is probably a cacophony of similar repetitive internal chatter.

Conversations cost money, time and productivity

The trouble is these conversations have a cost. Not only do they take up time, they also reduce productivity. Think about how long it takes for you to get back to the task you’re working on after being interrupted. Research shows the average person takes up to 23 minutes to regain concentration. Now multiply that by tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

There are many kinds of repetitive conversations. It might be someone from the Accounts department asking for figures from the Sales team to do cash flow projections. Or the Compliance department checking if a client’s paperwork is in order so that they can issue a job card for technicians to attend to a call.

Employees checking how many leave days they have available and applying for leave. Dispatch checking if a client’s payment has reflected. Sales checking inventory to compile a quote.

Taking these conversations online doesn’t help much. After all, a ping on an instant messaging platform can be as distracting as a phone call.

Basic versus advanced automation

The obvious solution is to automate. And many organisations have won at least some ground on that front. Some have HR software that allows employees to see how much leave they have (and apply for more), or use smart sensors for real-time inventory management.

But many of these systems are fragmented or implemented piecemeal. This means there are still too many repetitive conversations.

What happens if the right tech brings together data and information from across the business? Could an organisation reduce the volume of repetitive internal conversations?

Yes. For those short, question/answer engagements, businesses can use chatbots, particularly ones that are now powered with generative capabilities. They can handle many of the basic employee questions, like applying for leave or following up on a purchase order. These digital assistants help speed things up by finding required information or automating specific requests.

Conversations that would normally involve experts, where staff are looking for advice rather than information, virtual agents can be used. These digital experts can have detailed conversations, that can start by clarifying a specific situation, need or problem and then provide advice you, before triggering actions. Think of them as an internal expert at your staff’s fingertips.

This has some obvious benefits. It frees up your most skilled and experienced people from having to have the same conversations with different staff members, simply because no one else is knowledgeable enough. As a result, they can focus more on high value work that has a material impact on your company’s bottom line.

It’s unlikely automation will completely eliminate repetitive internal conversations (some people just like hopping on a call). However, there is no doubt that it can improve productivity, and help save time and money.

View original article here.